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New Website for Ibumom

August 19, 2017

Thanks so much for visiting me here at the adventures of ibumom! Come visit me at my new website I’d love to visit with you there!


He Knew My Joy

March 5, 2016



The writers of the Psalms did it all the time… they poured their hearts out to God in cries so loud that sometimes we imagine we can almost hear the confusion, frustration, and grief in their words. Sometimes I feel like their words could have come from my own tongue. But those Psalmists never camped out in those emotions. They poured them out and in the next breath they were aiming their heart’s eyes toward praise and thanks and its fruit – a better perspective.

As is typical of a season of victory, or at least moving forward to victory, one day I was filled with joy at being invited to be a part of something that God was doing. On my way to work on one of those joy-filled days a bright blur of red flashed past as a cardinal winged its way across the road in front of my car. It seemed as if its beauty was a gift from God, a love note to me, to say He knew my joy. My heart spilled praise.

But guess what happened the very next day? I crashed. Fear took over and I wanted to hide. Again. So I went to hide in Psalm 43… and to hold onto the gift of the little red bird. These words of the Sons of Korah could have been my very own.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5

And then came the refocusing, “Put your hope in God. Praise Him.” It was like lotion on my heart when I read it. Take every thought captive, Tess. Hold it up to the light of Jesus and His Word. (2 Cor. 10:5) So instead of camping out on the fear and struggle, I curled up in my place of refuge and focused my heart’s eyes on the love note from the Lord of the little red bird. He knows my joy. My hope is in God.

Bible Journaling Supplies used: ESV single-column journaling Bible from Crossway, watercolors, water brushes, Micron Pigma pens 

For Bible journaling information and inspiration see

The Jesse Tree, the Israelites, and Me… a Christmas Transformed

November 27, 2014

At the first hint of fall in the air and the calling of the blue jays telling me it’s coming, excitement begins to bubble inside of me. It’s almost time for Jesse Tree… time for the season of quiet (or not always so quiet) waiting.

In hot and humid Papua, Indonesia one year I picked up a Jesse Tree book from another expat family’s yard sale. I had never heard of the Jesse Tree and so I read with curiosity and a small searching for a way to make Christmas feel like Christmas two degrees below the equator. I had no idea that it would transform Christmas for our family.


This week I will go on a small hunt into the fencerow near our backyard for a dry branch we can use for our Jesse Tree, because for me, it starts with that stump, that seemingly dead stump from which life sprang up. It’s that symbol of the family tree that was Jesus’ and as Ann Voskamp says, “If you don’t come to Christmas through Christ’s family tree and you come into the Christmas story just at the Christmas ­tree —​- it’s hard then to understand the meaning of His coming.” 

I want to understand. I want to know. I want to feel it. I want Christmas to be real for my family. And I want them to know it and feel it for themselves. Way down deep. Because when we get our eyes on Him, Christmas feels like Christmas no matter the weather!

Along the way, life has grown challenging in ways far more serious than equatorial heat and humidity and I have needed to learn to intentionally focus my cloudy eyes and center my stubborn heart. One year, the Jesse Tree asked me “Is Jesus enough?” “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,…” (Habakkuk 3:17) What if then… is Jesus enough?

You see my heart is not unlike the stubborn hearts of the Israelites. They saw God part the Red Sea and rescue them from disaster. They saw God’s presence with them by day and by night in the pillar of cloud and fire. They saw His loving care over them, yet they were not satisfied. It wasn’t enough. And soon they forgot. And then they remembered and then forgot again.


Yep. That’s me. I am grateful that our God is patient. He was even patient then with those stubborn Israelites and because of the Jesse Tree I understand that Jesus’ own family tree was full of people not so much different than me and my family. “The coming of Christ was right through families of messed up monarchs and battling brothers, through affairs and adultery and more than a feud or two, through skeletons in closets and cheaters at tables.” Ann Voskamp


I am learning and seeing and each year that we put up our Jesse Tree and spend time talking and laughing and learning each night of the week, I see myself more clearly as dearly loved and part of an amazing plan that God has had right from the beginning of time! I desperately want that for my children as well.

It’s then, right there at the Jesse Tree that quiet happens. It happens in our hearts because we know that the only real reason for Christmas is Jesus and no amount of heat and humidity, and no lack of figurative grapes, olives, sheep, or cattle will change the fact that He himself is the Gift and He is enough.

Yes, I’m human. Honestly, my stubborn Israelite-like heart still sometimes feels sad that our Christmas tree isn’t piled high underneath with gifts. But I also recognize and am so grateful that when my littlest one receives one gift… cute boots that she wanted so badly… she is so excited and satisfied and I see fruit of our family heart and eye-focusing.

God always keeps His promises and one I hold close to my heart is this one which He made to those same stubborn Israelites, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

I am directed back to the other tree, the dead branch with the promise of life. Each night of Advent, my family will pause, the noise of Christmas will still, and we will wait together, reliving and re-celebrating the coming of God With Us as a tiny baby, God’s greatest gift. Those bubbles are rising in my heart… it’s almost time!


Do you want to know more about the Jesse Tree? Want to try it for your own family? I would love to share more with you about the details of our family’s Advent celebration.

Here are a few resources to start with:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  Habakkuk 3:17-18


Bloom Like Crazy!

July 18, 2014

This mum… about two years ago, I was given the start of a mum which had been divided from another plant. It was a very small piece. I planted it in my own garden but in two growing seasons it had not done anything but survive, and barely at that. Yet each year I have watched its mother mum across the street growing and blooming like crazy.

Late this spring when I moved a border into the full sun, I made room for the mum… only I managed somehow to divide the little spindly thing into three plants and wondered if they’d make it so spindly and sad. In only a matter of days the mum just took off and now all three baby mums are thriving and doing their own crazy! All three of them so many times bigger than the original baby I received two years ago!

healthy little mum

healthy little mum


There is a lesson in this little surviving mum. We can be encouraged by the popular quote, “Bloom where you are planted.”


I myself have bloomed bravely in places where it wasn’t natural for me to bloom. (This little mum actually did provide one little brave flower last fall.) But plant me in the right environment, just right for who I am, and watch me grow! Doing my own crazy. You too; it’s the right thing to bloom right where God puts you, even if it’s not your best environment, and with His very able help, but when He gives you a choice… find the right place and bloom like crazy!

It’s the right thing to bloom right where God puts you, even if it’s not your best environment, and with His very able help, but when He gives you a choice… find the right place and bloom like crazy!

I played hooky from ironing and did this instead…

July 18, 2014

I tried to be a good girl this morning, really. I had every intention of ironing. But then I heard my garden singing and did this instead.


My garden gave me this bouquet.

An Answered Prayer I didn’t Pray

February 8, 2014

“I’m bad at finding your gum but I found you a living room set.”

“You found me a living room set????”

I received this text from Ron at my desk last Friday.

“Better. It’s a gift if you want it.”

“What!?? Who?”

The response was… “God”.

Texting turned into quick emails and he sent me a link to a picture of the furniture. I liked it so much and knew it would look perfect in our dragonfly blue family room. (Really. That’s the name of the color.) Just the fact that one of the main colors in the pattern was red hinted to me that this was a gift from God. I love red. If I were to buy new furniture, I would buy red.

And I wondered, “Why? Why would God give me furniture when I haven’t even asked?”

And then I remembered…

Months ago my dear friend/prayer partner and I discussed some big needs. Things like a new laptop and a winter coat for my husband. And a new roof to replace the leaky one. The little stuff – furniture, shoes, and various other small stuffs don’t usually make it into my prayers.

My friend encouraged me to make a list and start praying over it, giving it to the Lord, letting Him decide the small stuff. That day, when we prayed together, I smiled when she prayed for furniture for me. After that day, I put it out of my mind. I wasn’t convinced.

But this day, last Friday, I remembered her thoughtful prayer.

We picked up our furniture the next day. It’s perfect! The red, green, and blue plaid looks so beautiful with our blue walls and the green is the same color as the tile around our fireplace. It looks like it was meant to be.

See for yourself!


On Tuesday I found out… not only had my friend prayed for furniture for me that one time in my hearing, she kept on praying! And that very week, the week the furniture came to us, knowing we were discouraged, she had added to her prayers a request that God would do something special for us to encourage us. (!!!)

You know what? It’s not about the furniture, though the furniture reminds me every day of what it’s really about.

It’s about friendship that is deep because praying together is part of the friendship. It’s about a friend praying a prayer I couldn’t pray for myself. I want to be that kind of friend.

But most of all it’s about a heavenly Father who hears our prayers and is faithful to answer. Who takes delight in answering with a gift so much better than I could have even chosen for myself. Isn’t that the way it always is?

I am bowled over again by His loving-kindness. His hearing. His knowing.

That furniture, it’s like God’s voice saying to me, “All those other needs that you think are so much bigger? I know about them, too. Trust me.”

How can I not?

“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:39

(*A few more details… The friends who gave the furniture to us had placed it on Craig’s List. Though there were many calls about the 15-year-old but hardly used set of furniture, no one had ever followed through. Our friends are downsizing. Ron had had lunch with him that day and in conversation about the moving fun, we were offered the furniture, seemingly out of the blue. Now it’s a little clearer why so many people inquired but decided not to take it!)

Becky’s Bible… Shining A Light on My Heavenly Father

October 30, 2013

Sixteen years ago!

It’s hard to believe it’s already so many years ago that our family spent six and a half months in pre-mission-field training. The first, very long two months of our training were spent in Valley City, North Dakota, living in a college dorm with our family. The last four months were spent in Waxhaw, North Carolina. It was such a loooong six and a half months. But also a nice, long time to learn more about God’s love and faithfulness!

Not long after, I wrote the following story in a newsletter…

The fall of 1997 at JAARS in Waxhaw, NC was a particularly difficult time for our family. We were extremely busy with training. I was five months pregnant [with our only son], and our support was very low. We were tired and discouraged.

One Sunday on the way home from church, Becky, our middle daughter, discovered she had lost a large section of her Bible. Unable to find it, she was upset.

Our hearts were saddened as we told her that we could not afford to buy her a new Bible; she would have to pray for one. That day she began to pray that God would give her a Bible.

It was only a few days later when a small, rather heavy, rectangular package arrived in the mail, addressed to Becky. Ron and I could hardly wait until school was out for Becky to open it.

That evening our family watched as Becky opened her package to find her prayer answered! Inside was a beautiful, burgundy, leather-bound Study Bible with her name engraved on the cover. God had so lovingly and faithfully answered our little girls’ prayer and strengthened the faith of our entire family!

God continues to prepare each one of us in special ways for future ministry. We praise the Lord for His goodness as we each learn to trust Him more!

Re-telling this story always squeezes my heart. That God would take such care to love my children, each in a way that would speak clearly to them, was so amazing to me. I tell it now again to say this…

Becky’s first Bible… the one that fell apart… still exists. We never did find the missing chunk but its pieces shine on… featured in my worship art. I struggled for a long time with the thought of tearing up a Bible but have come to this conclusion…

God receives no glory from a falling apart Bible shoved to the dusty far-reaches of a bookshelf. But He DOES receive glory when I showcase this Bible in art that seeks to shine a light on who He is! 

Magnify the Lord

It is with great joy that I have been using Becky’s Bible to do just that… to magnify Him for who He is, not just through the art itself but in the re-telling of the story of the Bible He used to begin to show my little girl that He knows her and He loves her.

Nothing I Desire Besides You

All glory to our God who sees, hears, knows and deeply loves us, His children!

If You Love One Another

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

Every time I finish one wreath I am already excited about my next one. The following is a wreath I made for my office door with a winter theme.

Winter Worship Art


And with the leftovers I made this one for the door of my pretty house:


Tears to Laughter… my husband’s answered prayer

July 6, 2013

Every now and then our Heavenly Father reaches down with a gentle hand and touches our lives in can’t-miss-it kind of ways. Those times when we can sense His delight in showing us, His children, that He knows deeply, He sees deeply, and He loves deeply.

He did so again for me recently….

Beginning on June 26, 2011, life took a turn for traumatic and heart breaking for our family. Hope seemed pretty distant and sometimes God did too. I didn’t understand what He was doing in our lives. At the same time I was determined that I would not miss whatever it was that the Lord wanted to teach me. I clung to the promise that “all things work together for good”, that there was something of value for me in the sadness. I clung with all of me to God and His Word and stayed as close to Him as I humanly could. I cried so many tears I wondered how many bottles of them God had collected.

When I joined the staff of New Guilford Church in August 2012, I was still crying. Every staff meeting, almost without fail, I cried. They cared that my heart was hurting and they prayed such beautiful, heart-squeezing prayers for me and my family that made me cry more. I began to dread staff meetings because I knew I would cry.

Thankfully, the tears have gradually lessened. Still there are tears now and then but more for others rather than myself. Their prayers have not changed. They still pray beautiful prayers for each other, for me, and for the church family.

It was prayer time in our staff meeting a few weeks ago. The comment was made… “Tess doesn’t cry anymore. She laughs.”

That evening, I shared this with my husband.

“I know why”, he said.

My best friend, my husband, the one who loves me like Jesus loves me,
was praying for me,
was praying very specifically that
the Lord would change
my tears to laughter.

And God reached down and answered his prayer.

Jesus Christ – Landlord of My Life, My Everything

November 19, 2012

While I figure out how to write about what the Lord has been teaching me these last few months, I share something my husband wrote shortly after we bought our house two and a half years ago. (The title is mine.)

After 25 years of renting…… the Lord has given us the privilege of home ownership.  We have learned a few lessons over our 25 years as home renters. One of the biggest lessons is stewardship:

  • When renting a home we know that it isn’t ours, but we need to take care of it as if it were ours.
  • At some point the owner will want his house back and we must return it in a condition at least as good as we found it.
  • If we broke something we were responsible to fix it.
  • Having a good relationship with the owner made a lot of difference in how we treated the owner’s property and how he treated us.

These lessons carry over to our new role as home owners. First, we understand that we could not have purchased a home at all if the Lord had not made it possible. Although we have exceptionally good credit, and we still have adequate income, our status as missionaries makes acquiring a loan difficult. The right house, the right realtor, the right loan officer, the right lender… it all came together at the right time – God’s time.

We prayed:

We asked the Lord for a home with just enough room for our family to live, and to host neighbors and small groups; prayed for a location in town where we could get to know neighbors, build relationships, and reach out to them; prayed for an affordable mortgage and the income to pay for it. Lots of other people prayed also. The Lord answered their prayers first, and then our prayers.

Even though we are now home owners, we feel that this home is not our own. The Lord is the Owner and we are renting from Him. So, our lessons learned as renters over the last 25 years are still applicable. We have use of a house for a time, only God knows how long. Every repair and upgrade we make to the house is not just for our benefit, but for our home’s Owner. Having a good relationship with the Owner makes a big difference in how we treat and use the house. It may be difficult, but if/when the Owner asks for His house back, we will willingly return it, giving thanks for the years we were able to enjoy and benefit from His gracious provision.


How do you view ownership and stewardship of your home or other belongings?

My own comments… It is my strong belief that not only is God the true owner of everything we have, I myself also belong to Him. This affects everything from how I steward my God-given time to how I steward my body, which maybe I am not so good at. My relationship with the Landlord of Me is of utmost importance. Only in acknowledging that I – everything that I own, everything and every way that I am, everything that my Father in Heaven has given me responsibility for – ultimately belongs to Him – do I find the way to truly live – walking in the freedom of surrender to God!

…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [who is] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)

Someday, might the Lord say of me, “Glory has come to me through Tess.” That is my deepest desire. (John 17:10)

Held Safely… still more lessons

October 15, 2012

Three years ago, I cried my eyes out at a scrapbook retreat. I was Skype-ing with Ron in Indonesia. Together – me in Hedgesville, Maryland and Ron in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia – we sifted through ten years of our family in one house. Just stuff but stuff representing memories.

A whole house narrowed down into a small pile of what Ron could hand-carry in his luggage. Most heartbreaking for me was choosing which of my children’s special things would or would not make that small pile. We told ourselves that stuff can always be replaced.

Over the next year, I saw my loving Heavenly Father, the One who knew me, who knew I had a red kitchen, the very same One, replace many of those things which were closest to our hearts.

At first I asked Him why, when I had given it all to Him, even those hopes and dreams for my future, why he was giving some of it back to me? I felt like His reply was, “Just wait and see.”

My Father God did impossible things, like arrange for us (missionaries living on faith generally don’t buy houses) to get a manageable loan on a house we loved in a neighborhood we could reach out to. He answered little six-year-old Faith’s prayer for a piano so she could take piano lessons!

He was tenderly painting pictures of love on our hearts. How much more precious to me even was His lesson of love for my Faithy’s heart!

Sometimes I still ask Him why. Sometimes I still wonder why. But maybe I am starting to see.

This past year and a half has been the most difficult ever for our family. It is now that I cling with all my stubborn might to these lessons He has been teaching me…

It’s not about a KitchenAid, not about a house, or even a piano. It’s about faith.  It’s about my Father in heaven who knows and understands my heart. He sees me and He hears me. He loves me more deeply than I can begin to fathom.

A Father who loves us this much can certainly with no doubt be trusted completely.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4